Friday hearing in Winnipeg serial killer’s trial cancelled after witnesses don’t show

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

The trial of a confessed Winnipeg serial killer ended up being cancelled for the day on Friday, after neither of the two civilian witnesses scheduled to testify showed up for court.

The first of those witnesses told prosecutors she couldn’t make it to Jeremy Skibicki’s trial on four counts of first-degree murder because of a medical issue Friday morning, Crown attorney Christian Vanderhooft told court.

That witness is a woman whom Skibicki said he once had in his apartment “like a lion … with prey in its mouth” but ended up letting go.

He made that comment to police during a 2022 interview, during which he confessed to killing three First Nations women — Rebecca Contois, 24, Morgan Harris, 39, and Marcedes Myran, 26 — as well as a fourth unidentified woman who has been given the name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, or Buffalo Woman, by community leaders. She is believed to have also been Indigenous and in her 20s when she died.

The witness was being called to testify in connection with the Crown’s use of similar fact evidence in the trial, which Vanderhooft said Thursday will highlight abuse and violence perpetrated on vulnerable Indigenous women that are “so strikingly similar that they establish a modus operandi in the perpetrator.”

On Thursday, Skibicki’s ex-wife testified in relation to prosecutors’ use of similar fact evidence. She told court the accused abused and regularly sexually assaulted her in her sleep during their relationship.

Court was also expected to hear Friday from a man who handled a jacket that police say belonged to Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe, which Skibicki prepared to sell in 2022 after killing her.

A series of four photographs shows a jacket. Two photos on the top show the front and back of a black jacket, with a hood lined with grey fur. Two photos on the bottom show the jacket reversed, with black-and-white horizontal stripes.
A jacket that Skibicki told police he took from the unidentified woman he killed in 2022 then sold online is among the only pieces of evidence investigators ever located to try to determine who the woman now known as Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe was. (Submitted by Winnipeg Police Service)

Vanderhooft said that man didn’t show up either Friday morning, but that prosecutors had been in touch with him. The Crown attorney said both witnesses are now planned to testify sometime next week instead. 

People in the courtroom gallery sat waiting for more than a half hour after 10 a.m. on Friday, when court was scheduled to have begun, before hearing the proceedings would be cancelled for the day.

Trial continues Tuesday

Skibicki, now 37, was arrested in May 2022, after Contois’s partial remains were discovered in garbage bins near his North Kildonan apartment. More of her remains were later found at a Winnipeg landfill.

He ended up unexpectedly confessing to her killing and the killings of the three other women, which police had previously had no knowledge of, during the 2022 interview with investigators.

The faces of three First Nations women are pictured side by side.
Left to right: Morgan Harris, Marcedes Myran and Rebecca Contois. Skibicki has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in their deaths, and in the death of a fourth unidentified woman who has been given the name Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe. (Submitted by Winnipeg Police Service and Darryl Contois)

Prosecutors have said the women’s deaths were intentional and racially motivated, and that Skibicki preyed on vulnerable Indigenous women at Winnipeg homeless shelters before killing them and throwing out their remains.

The remains of Harris and Myran are believed to be in a different landfill outside Winnipeg, while police have not said where they believe Mashkode Bizhiki’ikwe’s remains are.

Skibicki’s legal team says while he’s admitting he killed the women, they plan to argue he shouldn’t be held criminally responsible due to a mental disorder.

Court heard earlier this week that the accused is scheduled to be assessed by a forensic psychiatrist called by the Crown this coming Sunday and Monday, in order to determine whether he was in fact suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the killings.

mugshot of bearded man
Skibicki’s lawyers are arguing that while he has admitted to killing four women, he should be found not criminally responsible due to mental disorder. (Jeremy Skibicki/Facebook)

The trial before Court of King’s Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal is expected to continue Tuesday, when court is scheduled to hear testimony from a forensic computer analyst about what was discovered on Skibicki’s computer.

The trial is anticipated to continue until June 6.

Support is available for anyone affected by these reports and the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people. Immediate emotional assistance and crisis support are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through a national hotline at 1-844-413-6649.

You can also access, through the government of Canada, health support services such as mental health counselling, community-based support and cultural services, and some travel costs to see elders and traditional healers. Family members seeking information about a missing or murdered loved one can access Family Information Liaison Units.